After days of widespread protests, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Saturday indefinitely delayed a proposed law that could allow people to be extradited to China for trial. Lam said that the city’s legislature would stop all work on the bill and that further steps would be decided after consultations with several parties, Reuters reported.
Violent clashes had erupted in Hong Kong on Wednesday as police tried to control demonstrators from storming the city’s Parliament. Hong Kong police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protestors staging demonstrations against the extradition bill. Critics fear that the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation [Amendment] Bill, 2019, that had been proposed by the Government of Hong Kong, would cause the city to open itself to the Chinese law and that people from Hong Kong may become subject to a different legal system.
“I believe that we cannot withdraw this bill, or else society will say that this bill was groundless,” The New York Times quoted Lam as saying at a press conference on Saturday. She also added that she felt “sorrow and regret” that she had been unable to convince people that the law was needed.
The city’s leaders hoped that delaying the bill would defuse tension in the city and avoid any more violence on the streets. Before the announcement, those opposing the move had said that a mere postponement of the bill would not be satisfactory for protestors, who were planning another mass demonstration on Sunday. Organisers of the protests said that it was still on even after the announcement.
The extradition bill would apply to Hong Kong residents and foreign and Chinese nationals living or travelling in the city to be extradited to China. Many fear that this would threaten the rule of law that forms the basis of Hong Kong’s financial status, Al Jazeera reported.